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Cubby House (2001)
Director: Murray Fahey
review by Denise Wayne
Australian terror can occasionally be exceptional and innovative but, sadly, this is not one of those rare cases. Following a prologue about child murders by drugged out hippies back in the 1960s, the film opens with a dodgy estate agent (played by Craig McLachlan from TV series, Bugs) more or less conning ignorant American immigrants into buying the only vacant property on a sprawling development. It's a frightfully rundown 'fixer-upper' that Lynn Graham (Belinda McClory) and her three kids take on, reluctantly, and blissfully unaware at first of their new home's secret history.
By the time a neighbourhood loony has explained what the Grahams have gone and let themselves in for, it's too late to back out of the deal. Divorcee Lynn fools herself into believing that the house's dark past has nothing to do with her underage children's weird misbehaviour, even though it's obvious that domestic tensions within the broken family, especially recriminations about the family's move from her eldest son, Danny (Joshua Leonard of The Blair Witch Project), have somehow helped trigger a return to power of Murzazeal, the 'demon of night and blood'.
Are you ready for The Evil Dead in suburbia? Cubby House (aka: The Third Circle) mitigates many blatant Amityville, Elm Street, Poltergeist and Hellraiser scene thefts (bloodthirsty floorboards, a dimensional vortex, nomadic vegetation, satanic atrocities, and portal access to hell) with some halfway decent effects and one or two genuinely unsettling moments. Of course, the little blonde daughter is immediately sensitive to the presence of whatever's slithering about through the bushes in the overgrown back garden, but it's a shock when she lets her brother cut her with the dagger found hidden in the child-size playhouse of the title.
We may well expect conventions like a glowing pentagram drawn on the wall, and the bungled exorcism attempts to get rid of the menace that infiltrates and disrupts normal life, so easily. ("Evil feeds on innocence," says the tag line.) And yet, there are minor pleasures to be found here, such as the enticing fairy tale style lighting effects which make the cubby house such a truly marvellous place for two young children to risk sneaking out of bed for. So, if some of the uncanny happenings strain all credibility, the filmmakers have wisely left open the familiar comfort of fantasy's it's-all-just-a-bad-dream interpretation of most supernatural events.
previously published in VideoVista #36
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